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Hustle and Bustle in the Bronx

The Hunts Point Terminal Market and Beyond

Many of those doing business at Hunts Point have an interesting view of their rivals. “We don’t see local farmers’ markets as our competition,” comments Koster, “and using our past as a guide, we deal with ongoing shifts in business like this as they occur. We serve mom-and-pop stores, large retail chains, and restaurants alike. Specialty value-added foodservice is increasing in the New York metro area, and our specialties and staples coexist due to the different ethnicities and social backgrounds in the region.”

DiMaggio feels the same: “We don’t consider the farmers’ markets to be a threat,” he says, echoing a common view that economies of scale that make it a whole different ball game for wholesalers. Since Hunts Point is governed under the aegis of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the largest port on the East Coast, this gives the market and its players a substantial advantage over all possible rivals.

Access, Promotion and Reach
Some companies, such as A&J Produce, even think of terminal markets as pioneers, helping build awareness and consumption of lesser known commodities that eventually break into the mainstream.

While the majority of A&J Produce’s melon business has come from old stalwarts such as cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew, the wholesaler has seen rising sales for the ‘hami’ melon, or snow melon, which Pelosi attributes to habits developed at farmers’ markets and small Asian groceries. “It’s been a success for us,” he shares. “It doesn’t outsell our standard commodities, but it’s been a nice complement to our business because of the growing demand for Asian produce.”

Hunts Point also has decades of built-in infrastructure to benefit its members, such as giving them multiple options for shipping and receiving fresh fruits and vegetables from both local and international suppliers, via many different methods of transportation.

To Koster, this means merchants at Hunts Point can offer far more than small vendors at farmers’ market scattered through the boroughs and state. “The market allows us to better serve our customers, growers, and shippers with a full line of produce,” he says. “This coincides with our philosophy of the importance of food safety, unbroken cold chain compliance, and quick turnaround with minimal handling of fresh produce.”

Local Pride
The Hunts Point market has also been a key member of the “Pride of New York” program since its inception by the state’s department of agriculture. Initiated to encourage consumers and retailers to take advantage of locally-grown fruits and vegetables and other foods and drinks native to New York state, the program’s stated goal is to increase the use of local products by a total of 10 percent.

To reach this goal, the program offers marketing and branding assistance, plentiful information, and the use of a database of over 3,000 businesses that handle GAP-certified produce. It also provides local growers and producers with an opportunity to show off their wares at international trade shows held in the city, and works with local retailers and other markets to display special logos indicating locally grown produce.